Fringe Ben­e­fits

India Today - - UPFRONT -

Jour­nal­ist Dhiren­dra Jha’s new book, Shadow Armies, is a timely primer on the an­cil­lary or­gan­i­sa­tions that op­er­ate on the mar­gins of Hin­dutva to help achieve the stated goal of the RSS to turn In­dia into a ‘Hindu rash­tra’. It is a po­lit­i­cal goal, what­ever the RSS’s claims to be­ing a cul­tural or­gan­i­sa­tion that is above pol­i­tics. In his in­tro­duc­tion, Jha notes of the RSS and its sub­sidiary, the Vishva Hindu Par­ishad, that “[e]xcept for con­test­ing elec­tions they do al­most ev­ery­thing a po­lit­i­cal party would do: mo­bilise masses, de­velop is­sues for po­lit­i­cal po­lar­i­sa­tion, and play a role in iden­ti­fy­ing elec­toral can­di­dates and manag­ing booth-level cam­paigns.”

On the phone, Jha em­pha­sises that this strat­egy is anti-demo­cratic, that to be­have like a po­lit­i­cal party while hid­ing be­hind the fig leaf of cul­ture is “not fol­low­ing the rules of the game”. Like a gi­ant oc­to­pus, the RSS ex­tends its ten­ta­cles into pol­i­tics at ev­ery level, though the BJP is of­fi­cially its sole po­lit­i­cal stan­dard-bearer. In Shadow

Armies, Jha notes that the tac­tic used is “equiv­o­ca­tion”. That the RSS and BJP dis­as­so­ci­ate them­selves from the “dirty work” done by groups that share their ide­ol­ogy, dis­miss­ing it as the ac­tiv­i­ties of the “fringe” while of­fer­ing tacit sup­port and po­lit­i­cal pro­tec­tion.

As Jha’s ti­tle sug­gests, this is work done at the be­hest of the RSS and BJP un­der the cover of dark­ness. But with the as­cen­sion of Yogi Adityanath to the post of UP chief min­is­ter, this so-called fringe now basks un­abashedly in the sun, no longer con­tent to do its bid­ding in the shad­ows. Adityanath is now a fig­ure of such celebrity and promi­nence within the BJP, he is out­shone only by Naren­dra Modi and, per­haps, Amit Shah.

In 2002, Adityanath, then an MP from the safe seat of Go­rakh­pur, where he was the head of the in­flu­en­tial mutt, formed the Hindu Yuva Vahini to con­sol­i­date his hold over eastern UP. The HYV is one of the four groups an­a­lysed in Shadow Armies that are not of­fi­cially af­fil­i­ated to the RSS. The other four groups in the book, in­clud­ing the Ba­jrang Dal, are part of the Sangh Pari­var. The dis­tinc­tion is only tech­ni­cal. They are united, as Jha shows, by their use of vi­o­lence, in­tim­i­da­tion and ter­ror to fur­ther the RSS and BJP’s “Brah­mini­cal” agenda—a sub­ver­sion and be­trayal of the mod­ern, plu­ral In­dia imag­ined in the Con­sti­tu­tion.

—Shougat Das­gupta

CATHAL MCNAUGHTON/REUTERS

LEGACY OF LAW­LESS­NESS A Hindu Yuva Vahini rally in Un­nao, Ut­tar Pradesh, on April 5

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